It’s About Time

H ave you ever thought about what a pervasive influence the concept of time has in our lives? We hear it in song titles and lyrics: “Time Is On My Side”(1), “Too Much Time On My Hands”(2), “Time Won’t Let Me”(3), “Time Has Come Today”(4), “The Times They Are A Changin'”(5), “As Time Goes By”(6).

Note: Click on (x) to view a YouTube video for that song.

We seem to never have enough time in our lives to do what we need/want to do; Sometimes there is too much time available, especially during those times when we just want the day over and done with; There is a time to reap and a time to sow but not enough time to waste crying over spilt milk. I think you get the picture, time is many things to us but not the same thing to all of us.

I was born into a blue-collar working class family in northeastern Ohio. My mother’s father worked in a mill for Republic Steel and my father worked at Youngstown Steel Car (making boxcars and railroad cars). My aunts and uncles on both sides of the family worked in factories such as: Packard Electric (wiring harnesses for GM cars), Continental Can Co. (cans, pails and buckets), Jones & Laughlin Steel (electrical conduit). They all worked shift work at some time or another and eventually some of them got on to Day Shift full-time.

The concept of shift work intrigued me as early as 6 years of age. I would be getting up to start my day as they were arriving home to end their day. When it was my bedtime, some of them would just be getting up to begin their day. It was a world out of sync to me, but it was a normal life to everyone else.

It was the 1950s and the post-war economy was gaining speed. Everyone who could work, and wanted to, had a job. Manufacturing was King and factories were running around the clock to keep up with demand. In this environment, utilizing different hours of the day to do the same task was all a part of the job. This kept manufactured goods rolling out the factory doors and into consumers’ homes and businesses.

I  reconnected with my roots in 1999 when I went to work in the Electric Shop at the Golden Gate Bridge as a rotating shift electrician. Prior to that time, I had worked on a few jobs where we were on Swing and Graveyard shifts for short periods, but nothing like the job I was about to embark upon.

As a Rotating Shift Electrician (Shifty) I work 3 different shifts: Swing Shift (15:00—23:00 hours), Day Shift (07:00—15:00 hours), and Graveyard Shift (23:00—07:00 hours). Each time I complete one shift I switch to the next. Every twelve weeks (3 complete cycles of 3 shifts) I go to 3 weeks of straight M—F, 07:00—15:00, days. Does this sound confusing? You bet it does.

Here is a typical cycle:

  • Tuesday to Monday, I work 7 days in a row from 3 pm to 11 pm (15:00—23:00 hours).
  • Off Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Thursday to Tuesday, I work 6 days in a row from 7 am to 3 pm (07:00—15:00 hours)
  • Off Wednesday and Thursday, however…
  • Thursday night at 11 pm, I work 7 days in a row until the following Thursday morning at 7 am (23:00—07:00 hours).
  • After a looooong weekend I start all over again on Tuesday afternoon’s Swing Shift.

Shifties work 6 and 7 days in a row but receive no overtime pay. Our work week ends on Saturday and starts on Sunday. Our days off between shifts are in the middle of the week, except for end of Graveyard shift and the start of Swing shift. This ensures that we have two 40 hour work weeks on our 80 hour Timecard.

I find that Graveyard Shift is my biggest challenge. On a good day I get 3 to 5 hours of sleep and during my waking moments I feel like I am in chest-deep water. My body is slow, my reactions require effort and, according to those close to me, I am grouchy (who me??).

Working rotating shifts has given me a new understanding of the concept of Time and a new appreciation of the Workday. I have had the incredible opportunity to see the Golden Gate Bridge in all its splendor, at every conceivable time of day, every day of the year, in every type of weather condition, year after year for over 13 years.

In the coming months I will share with you some insights, spin some stories and relate some personal experiences. Please let me know if you have any questions or subjects for one of my posts.

Thank you for reading my Blog,

  4 comments for “It’s About Time

  1. May 6, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    All my people on both sides of my family worked in factories or mills at one time or another. As a young man, I worked in warehouses for a while. I remember my father working various shifts for Remington Arms in Bridgeport, CT, where I grew up. He hated it, was seldom around, and was seldom fun to be with. I spent a lot of years harboring a grudge against him for those reasons, but I’ve grown to understand that he was just doing what he had to do to provide for his family. Generally speaking, most Americans under 35-years old today have no idea that this lifestyle was the norm for millions of American families not all that long ago. It’s kind of sad, but I guess things change.
    Looking forward to reading your future posts on this subject.


    • May 10, 2012 at 7:41 AM

      Thank you for sharing your experience in this area. Work is a four-letter word, but we all have to do it. Speaking of “we”, our Labor Coalition reached a tentative agreement with the Bridge late Monday night. It is now going to the membership & Board of Directors for ratification. Hopefully by the end of the month we will have a new contract in place.

      Thanks for mentioning me in your latest post and for pointing me to Rich Kenny.



      • May 10, 2012 at 7:47 AM

        You’re welcome, and I hope your contract situation works out.


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